US drones kill 15 in North Waziristan strike

The US carried out another drone strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The strike is the third in Pakistan in three days, and the eighth in the two weeks since the US failed to get Pakistan to reopen the supply lines for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The remotely piloted Predators or Reapers launched a pair of missiles at a compound in the town of Mir Ali, a terrorist hub in North Waziristan, according to AFP. Fifteen “militants” were killed in the strike, Pakistani officials told the news agency.

The target of the strike and the identity of those killed is not known. Pakistani officials said that several “foreigners” were among those killed, but the report was not confirmed. The term ‘foreigners’ is used by Pakistani officials to describe Arab members of al Qaeda or members of other regional jihadist groups based in Pakistan.

“Uzbek, Tajik, and Turkmen militants fighting for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan” were said to occupy the compound, according to The New York Times.

Abu Yahya al Libi is rumored to have been killed in today’s strike, however his death has not been confirmed. US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that al Libi was indeed the target of the Mir Ali strike [see Threat Matrix report, Abu Yahya al Libi rumored killed in Mir Ali drone strike]

The US carried out two other strikes this weekend; both took place near Wana in South Waziristan. A Taliban commander loyal to Mullah Nazir, who has said he is a member of al Qaeda and is on good terms with the Pakistani government, was killed in the first of the two strikes.

Mir Ali is a terrorist haven

The Mir Ali area is in the sphere of influence of Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network. Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network also operate in the Mir Ali area. Moreover, Mir Ali is a known hub for al Qaeda’s military and external operations councils.

Since Sept. 8, 2010, several Germans and Britons have been reported killed in Predator strikes in the Mir Ali area. The Europeans were members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and its offshoot, the Islamic Jihad Group, an al Qaeda affiliate based in the vicinity of Mir Ali. The IMU and IJG members are believed to have been involved in an al Qaeda plot that targeted several major European cities and was modeled after the terror assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008. The plot was orchestrated by Ilyas Kashmiri, the al Qaeda leader who was killed in a US drone strike in June 2011.

Mir Ali also hosts at least three suicide training camps for the the Fedayeen-i-Islam, an alliance between the Pakistani Taliban, the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. In early 2011, a Fedayeen-i-Islam spokesman claimed that more than 1,000 suicide bombers have trained at three camps. One failed suicide bomber corroborated the Fedayeen spokesman’s statement, claiming that more than 350 suicide bombers trained at his camp.

For the past several years, the US has been pounding targets in the Datta Khel, Miramshah, and Mir Ali areas of North Waziristan in an effort to kill members involved in the European plot. Al Qaeda and allied terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and a number of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups host or share camps in the region. These groups are given aid and shelter by Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup run by Siraj and Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Hafiz Gul Bahadar or the Haqqani Network. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.

Background on the US strikes in Pakistan

The US has carried out 21 strikes in Pakistan so far this year. Eight of those 21 strikes have taken place over the past two weeks. [For data on the strikes, see LWJ reports, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2012, and Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2012.]

The drone program was scaled back dramatically from the end of March to the beginning of the fourth week in May. Between March 30 and May 22, the US conducted only three drones strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas as US officials attempted to renegotiate the reopening of NATO’s supply lines, which have been closed since the end of November 2011. Pakistan closed the supply lines following the Mohmand incident in November 2011, in which US troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistani soldiers were killed after they opened fire on US troops operating across the border in Kunar province, Afghanistan.

A US intelligence official involved in the drone program in the country told The Long War Journal on May 28 that the strikes would continue now that Pakistan has refused to reopen NATO’s supply lines for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Two high-value targets have been killed in the strikes this year. A Jan. 11 strike killed Aslam Awan, a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda’s external operations network. The US also killed Badr Mansoor, a senior Taliban and al Qaeda leader, in a Feb. 8 strike in Miramshah’s bazaar.

The program has been scaled down from its peak in 2010, when the US conducted 117 strikes, according to data collected by The Long War Journal. In 2011, the US carried out just 64 strikes in Pakistan’s border regions.

So far this year, the US has launched more strikes in Yemen (22) against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula than it has launched against al Qaeda and allied terror groups in Pakistan (21). In 2011, however, the US launched only 10 airstrikes in Yemen, versus 64 in Pakistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Paul D says:

    payback time for the pakis lol

  • Setrak says:

    NBC sources say up to 6 aircraft were spotted and that the target was a large compound.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    Picking up tempo of the strikes. It looks like an attempt to get a big fish in order to influence the upcoming presidential election. I wish them the best. These have little influence on the end game in Afghanistan or Pakistan for that matter. The Taliban (Pashtuns) have a good chance of retaking southern Afghanistan in the next decade. Some 50 million strong and ethnical/culturally distinctive, they are a serious force. We are trying to influence a situation created by the old British Empire, where they created countries/territories along geographic features, leaving ethnically homogenous peoples separated by arbitrary national boundaries. A recipe for conflict.

  • villiger says:

    Good policing from the sky over these lawless areas. They really do seem to work, else we would’ve had more protests from the locals themselves not just from the political crap in Paq cities.

  • TooTired says:

    Only EIGHT in TWO WEEKS !!!
    Come on, give those operators more flight time !!
    Hellfire missiles create manufacturing jobs !!!

  • Charu says:

    Well, today Pakistan has deemed the drone attacks as illegal. So the gloves are off, and there is no more pretense as to who is the real enemy in this war. The US should respond by stating that since Pakistan has no control over these territories, their claims of sovereignty here are meaningless.
    This is a failed state that has a major energy crisis and instead puts all of its meager resources into building a massive nuclear stockpile that exceeds Great Britain and France! One that is one monsoon rain away from catastrophic flooding; which they still haven’t recovered from since last year. And they decide to pick a fight with NATO when they are poised for economic collapse?
    The Pakistanis also seem to believe that they will be indispensable when NATO’s forces and materials are pulled out, which is why they are trying to extort as much money as they can for opening up the corridor. An independent Baluchistan would have taken care of this matter, and would be critical for Afghanistan’s ability to bypass the duplicitous Pakistanis, but it won’t happen fast enough.

  • come-and-take-it says:

    More violations of international law anyone? The funny part of that question is that the basis of international law is “usage and custom”. Before very long, the combatants in these affected countries will be able, by the precedents set by the US government, to fly drones over the US to ferret out and kill perpetrators of international terrorism. I wonder where they will start? Washington??? Oh well, I’m sure the multinational kill consortium, better know as the military-industrial-complex, will welcome the opportunity to manufacture anti-drone drones. and then there will be anti-anti-drone drones, and anti-anti-anti-drone drones, and anti-…

  • gerald says:

    If you want to know who the bad guys are just look at the end game for both sides. Our side wants to go home and leave them to their own devices. Their side wants to convert everyone to follow their beliefs at the point of a literal sword.

  • Max says:

    Apparently there is a rumor that Al-Qaeda’s Grand Mufti, Abu Yahya al-Libbi was killed in this strike.

  • Sam says:

    Setrak you wanna post that article?

  • JT says:

    Come and get it –
    You are correct that a fundamental aspect of international law is whatever is customary. However, the rights of sovereignty require obligations as well. One can look to UN Resolution 1373 for more info:
    UN Security Council Resolution 1373 states that a state’s sovereignty means that a state is duty-bound to control its territory and obligated to not allow its land to be used by non-state actors or terrorist groups to carry out attacks against its neighbours. This resolution, adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and thus binding on member states, obligates them to “deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts, or provide safe havens”.

  • Civy says:

    Agree with Charu, an independent Baluchistan would solve this, and so many other problems. In return, Afghanistan should get a sliver of territory sufficient to gain access to the port of Gwadar – a port the Chinese have invested at least 3 billion in.
    China is in the news this week, along with other world powers, for pursuing legal agreements with the Afghan government for long term security, and development arrangements.
    m3fd2002, and others here seem to have missed this last bit of news. It very much looks like Afghanistan will be getting help from interested world powers for the foreseeable future, as their mineral wealth, and transit routes to oil and gas from Iran and the Caucuses are worth the bother.
    This is especially so for China, Russia, India, and Iran – which I think is about to suffer crushing setbacks stemming from their ill-conceived adventures in Syria and Lebanon, with far-reaching consequences. Expect Turkey, and perhaps, the Saudis, to emerge with much more influence in the region, and Turkey, in particular, a model of a secular Muslim state that will be broadly emulated.

  • bet sports says:

    A bad marriage between Pakistan & USA is on its peak. These Drone attacks will continue till they finish half of the population of the province, and Pakistan will come up with nothing, but only statement.

  • Villiger says:

    “Nato announces deals to exit Afghanistan via Central Asia”
    And a slap in the face of Paqistan!
    Even if the Northern land route is anything but easy:
    “An independent Baluchistan would have taken care of this matter, and would be critical for Afghanistan’s ability to bypass the duplicitous Pakistanis, but it won’t happen fast enough.”
    Strategically this makes imminent sense and I would predict it is inevitable. All one needs to do is to give Paqistan a long enough rope to hang themselves. Militarily speaking, taking Baluchistan is a pushover and if wars today were fought the way they once were, this already would’ve happened.
    JT, at the outset, i’m no expert but 1373 does not directly use the word Sovereignty. Still, its a very interesting read and Paqistan is in total contravention, obviously. Yet, it surprises me that, as far as i know, its terror-factories haven’t made it to a UN discussion, leave alone admonishment of any kind.
    If its easy enough to explain the technical connection of the resolution to a State’s claim of its Sovereignty, that would be helpful.
    A link to the resolution for others:

  • donowen says:

    At some point the Taliban on both sides of the border are going to realize that association with the Qeada crowd is not productive. Qeada leadership is rapidly getting down to second tier folks. Taliban names are now approaching the top of the list to be droned. The children of the hundreds of tribal leaders they have killed are now willing spies for the West- Pay back is hell.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    I love how all the Pakis can do is sit back and watch us pound thier borders with drone strike after drone strike….eat it up Pakis.

  • Civy says:

    It’s almost like we have a divide and conquer strategy? 🙂
    If US negotiators have any brains they will turn this Pak transit route question on its ear, and propose that drone strikes are a substitute for more conventional operations, so no transit = lots and lots of drone strikes.
    Drone strikes on AQAP are slowing the leakage from areas we have lots of intel and targets in. Nicely done.
    Expect Reapers to star next in air-to-air combat, blowing the demoralized Syrian AF out of the sky. If they come in from the sea at max altitude with AWACS side-looking radar directing them, we’ll know how the Reaper Sidewinder program went – started after Putinistan (aka Russia) invaded Georgia. The last hurrah of Dick Cheney.
    Anyone care to speculate on the kill ratio of Reapers vs Hind helicopters if Putin crosses the line in Georgia, or his Syrian puppets try to make one too many gun-runs on civilians? 50:1? 100:1? Infinity?

  • m3fd2002 says:

    The chinese don’t have the golden touch either. They totally got it wrong in Sudan, which has split along ethnic lines leaving the chinese with billions of dollars of petrodollar investments in question. The pashtuns will treat the chinese like the do with any strangers (including pakistani punjabi’s) in their territories, they extort/kidnap/shoot at them. Thats the way they roll. Even the Iranians, who are culturally,ethnically, lingually very similiar, view them as “hillbillies”.


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